Divorce in the military can be confusing because domestic situations are governed by a mix of federal statutes, state divorce laws and procedures, and military regulations. The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act is a federal law that provides certain benefits to former spouses of military members. Under this law, former spouses may be entitled to portions of the military member's retirement pay, medical care, and exchange and commissary benefits.
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act:
- Allows state courts to divide disposable military retired pay between the service member and spouse
- Allows former spouses to receive a portion of retired pay directly from the government in some circumstances
- Grants some former spouses access to health care at military treatment facilities
- Grants some former spouses access to military exchanges and commissaries
- Grants benefits to some victims of spousal or child abuse
The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act doesn't:
- Require courts to divide military retired pay
- Establish a formula for dividing military retired pay
- Award a predetermined share of military retired pay to former spouses
- Place a ceiling on the percentage of disposable retired pay that may be awarded
- Require an overlap of military service and marriage as a prerequisite to division of military retired pay as property
Jurisdiction under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act
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The Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act prevents a court from treating retired pay as the property of the service member and spouse unless the court has jurisdiction over the service member based on the service member's:
- Residence other than because of military assignment
- Consent to the court’s jurisdiction
Direct payment of retired pay
Direct payment of retired pay may be made to a former spouse from the military pay centers if there's a court order or a property settlement that was ordered, ratified or approved by the court, and if the final order specifically provides that payment is to be made from disposable retired pay for one of the following:
- Child support
- Division of retired pay as property if the former spouse was married to the member for 10 years or more, during which time the member performed 10 years or more of creditable service, and the order expresses payment in dollars or a percentage of the member's disposable retired pay
Direct payments will terminate on these events, whichever comes first:
- Terms of the court order are satisfied
- Death of the retired service member
- Death of the former spouse
Procedure for request for direct pay
The former spouse must send the following items to the designated agent of the member’s uniformed service:
- Signed DD Form 2293, "Application for Former Spouse Payments from Retired Pay"
- A copy of the court order
- Other accompanying documents that provide for payment of child support, alimony or division of property, certified by an official of the issuing court within the previous 90 days
Notification to the designated agent can be made by:
- Regular mail
- Certified mail
No later than 30 days after effective service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service:
- Will send written notice to the affected member at the last known address
- Will consider any response received from the service member
- May reject any request for direct pay that doesn't satisfy requirements
- Won't honor the court order whenever it's shown to be defective, modified, superseded or set aside
No later than 90 days after effective service, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will make payment to the former spouse and inform him or her of the amount to be paid, or send the former spouse an explanation of why the court order wasn't honored.
Impact of the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act on Survivor Benefit Plan designation
Under the Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection Act, a former spouse can be designated as a Survivor Benefit Plan beneficiary if the spouse was previously listed as a spouse beneficiary, with the following considerations:
- Voluntary or court-ordered designation
- Divorce after retirement: The former spouse's coverage will be the same amount as the spouse coverage.
- Divorce before retirement: The specific coverage level should be directed by court order.
- Former spouse remarriage before age 55: Eligibility as a beneficiary is lost unless the remarriage ends, and then eligibility is restored.